South African Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba has urged residents of Rosettenville suburb in Johannesburg to stop attacking foreigners accused of perpetrating crime.
Gigaba, who toured the suburb on Monday where about 10 houses occupied by foreigners allegedly selling drugs and promoting prostitution were set on fire, said locals should report such incidents to the police instead of taking matters into their own hands.
He told residents, after touring the affected area, that the South African government is aware of their grievances and will do all it can to address them.
But he was quick to stress that it is wrong to attack foreigners. “No person has the right to take the law into his or her own hands … We need to assess the whole situation concerning people said to be committing crimes before we take any action.”
However, his calls fell on deaf ears as some of the residents said they are sick and tired of foreigners who are allegedly selling drugs to their children and promoting prostitution.
One of them, Teressa Zwane, said, “They (foreigners) are selling drugs to our children. They are also promoting prostitution here. We are now sick and tired of them. They must go because even police are not taking any action even if we inform them about what is going on.”
Malawian Elubey Mwaleni, one of the victims, said the situation is frightening as she has been left homeless.
“I am totally powerless. Right now I am like a candle in the wind, just walking aimlessly looking for a place to live … I don’t know whether I will get a place to live …”
Zimbabwean, Kursh Ndlovu, said not all foreigners are selling drugs or promoting prostitution in Rosettenville.
“We need to become brothers and sisters and not enemies. We are Africans. All people who are here are trying to eke out a living. We are not here to cause havoc but to work for our families.”
Thousands of Zimbabweans live in the suburb and the nearby Turffontein, widely regarded as politically volatile.
A senior local government official was quoted recently as saying that foreigners are causing havoc in Johannesburg and as a result should be sent back to their homes.